September 26, 2008

Nazi suspect, Argentine immigrant tried in Serbia

Serbia’s war crimes prosecutors launched proceedings this week against a Hungarian citizen, who had immigrated to Argentina after World War II and returned to Hungary in 1996, on charges that he participated in mass killings of Jews and Serbs during Nazi occupation.

Prosecutors said they lodged a request for an investigation against Sandor Kepiro with the Belgrade war crimes court. The move is the first step toward an indictment and a trial. Prosecutors also urged the court to seek Kepiro’s extradition to Serbia.

The prosecutors’ statement said Kepiro, now 94, is suspected of acts of genocide during World War II. It says that he “in full awareness that of his own free will” he took part in the killings of at least 2,000 Jews and Serbs.

The worst killings took place during the so-called Great Raid of 1942, when about 800 Jews and 400 Serbs were rounded up, shot and drowned in the freezing Danube river in the northern city of Novi Sad, the statement said. The civilians were stripped naked and all their personal belongings were taken away, the statement added.

Last week, leading Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff, head of the Israeli branch of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, visited Serbia and urged the authorities to seek extradition of Kepiro and two other WWII suspects.

War crimes prosecutors acknowledged in the statement that the initial probe against Kepiro was carried out with help from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre.

Hungarian authorities have launched an investigation against Kepiro upon requests from the Wiesenthal Centre, but he was never punished for his role in the killings in Serbia.

After World War II was over, Argentina, under the presidency of Juan Domingo Perón — the founder of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s Peronist party — became a haven for Jews but also for Nazi war criminals.


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